* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

5072 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

How to build a starship - and why we should start thinking about it now

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Re: Re. you know...

Many poor serfs were oppressed by the evil Sir Finn Safari...

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Re: Re. you know...

I just misread that as ending the Smurf system in Western Europe. Which lead to some very strange mental images.

It could have lead to some fun films though. Robin Hood Prince of Smurfs anyone? Everything I do, I do it for blue.

OK, I'll stop now.

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This gun says you ain’t leaving until my PC is fixed

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The secret weapon

Our accounts department had Amber. They hot-desked, so whenever a machine broke, she'd swap places with the unfortunate, and phone in the problem to IT. The rest of us mere mortals, who weren't such stunners, got our hardware problems resolved in a couple of hours. She could guarantee a tech crawling under her desk within ten minutes.

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Can't upgrade, won't upgrade: Windows Mobile's user problem

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Well, they can do it, but it might mean leaving features out. Although it's pretty shocking that they don't already know this! But then this is all Apple do. The older phones get the new OS, but with several bits cut out, either because the hardware isn't there, or because Apple want to keep it for the new shiny-shiny. Perhaps they were being very cheapskate in not giving 1GB of RAM on all the models, it wasn't going to add that much to the cost?

But then Apple did exactly the same with the original iPad, where they gave the phones 1GB or RAM and the iPad 1 (launched 2 months before) only 512MB. Which meant that the iPad couldn't take the new version of iOS (iOS 4 if I remember right) for about 4 months after the phones got it, and then ran a bit slowly after that, and particularly the "upgrade" to iOS 5.

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Re: Quite Frankly

Windows 10 is fine. Since I upgraded my work PC, everyone in the office has volunteered to move onto it, in our small office of non-techies. I was expecting everyone to want to stay on 7 - which is good, and they were happy with, and avoids people having to cope with change. I'd already upgraded the one person on 8, I'm not a sadist.

But they wanted it, and are all happy. I've not read anything to suggest it's technically worse than 7, just that it involves change. My only problem so far is the illogical split between the Settings and Control Panel. But unlike in 8, there now seem to be links to take you to settings in the other place. So it's not that bad.

I'm not an IT person, just the only technically competent one in our small company. We get whatever OS comes with a new PC when we need one, and outsource whatever I can't do.

I can understand the lack of love for Windows 8. It was annoying. 8.1 fixed a lot of the worst stuff, and if you stuck Classic Shell or Start8 on it, you were mostly fine. But I don't see what's the problem with 10? Other than people being difficult. And objecting to the nagging download thing, but then MS are giving that away free.

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Re: As I've said before

Windows Phone is great. Although I agree with you Microsoft's mobile phone strategy has been a bloody shambles since about 2004. I assumed that things went wrong because all management resources were pulled in to try and unscrew-up Longhorn - which got them to the unloved (but actually not that terrible) Vista, and then the excellent Windows 7. Meanwhile their huge share in the smartphone/PDA field died, and the iPhone kicked everyone's collective arses.

But they've just kept on flailing since then. It's almost as if someone is telling them they must do mobile, as its "the future", but they actually hate it.

However Windows Mobile 8.1 is good. It's fast, I think I've only ever had one, maybe two, phone crashes - and I can't ever recall an app crashing on me. Whereas my iPad has an app crash on it every week, and probably crashes or needs a reboot every month. Not that I'm complaining - this is good performance, the work iPhone performed similarly to my iPad. I haven't regularly used a 'Droid since 2.2, which was a bit flaky, so it wouldn't be fair to comment.

Anyway Windows Phone is good. It's a cheap, solid, stable phone. The People Hub (address book) is far superior to Apple's, or stock Android. You can get bigger text easily, so I can call without needing my reading glasses. The email client is good, and allows you to separate email accounts easily, something Apple is awful at. The navigation apps are great, mobile IE is now perfectly useable, it was pretty ropey on Win Mo 7.

The app store is still pretty rubbish. It's still a mediocre mobile computer, compared to 'Droid or iPhone.

Sadly MS keep doing the hard work under the hood. But then no-one ever gets round to the polish that would turn it from an OK system into a great one. Bribe a few more people to make apps. Get simple stuff right, like a built in torch and timer app. Leave the UI as it is, it's great, but spend some effort on making the live tiles thing actually work. Or ditch it, and just make the icons prettier. Keep them big though - phone screens are small, and they're often used in not ideal viewing conditions.

Anyway, if MS screw up, I won't take the update. 8.1 is good enough for me, and at £140 I got a decent camera and decent phone in my Lumia 735. I'm aware it may not have a long term future, but for my needs now, it's the best phone. And the £450 saved over an iPhone can get me an iPad or 2 nice Android tablets.

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Billion-dollar blood-test unicorn biz Theranos 'putting lives at risk'

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Mechanical Turk

Who were that voicemail transcription by voice recognition company? Got lots of investment and hype, then turned out they were using people in Pakistan and the Philipines - and the voice recognition was only doing a measly few percent of the work.

I seem to remember one person's message being transcribed, followed by "Help! Help! I haven't been paid for 2 months, and they're making me translate these messages."

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Pubs good for the soul: Official

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Re: ALL HAIL THE ALE

Cheers for the beers!

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Only miserable tea-totallers are entitled to be happy

How very bloody dare you!

I don't wish to be a grammar nazi, or a pendant, I make enough typos of my own. But the very concept of changing teetotal to tea-total fills me with horror!

I am currently suffering from serious mental pain at the terrible dilemma this has forced me to consider. Which would I prefer to live without, tea or booze? The mental cruelty of the quesiton that your use of language has implied is too terrible to contemplate. I'm afraid I'm now forced to contact my lawyers - and you may await your trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity.

The horror! The horror. The horror...

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Four Boys' Own style World War Two heroes to fire your imagination

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He also landed a Meteor with no undercarriage on a carrier. Not an accident though. The range of early jets was so pathetic it was a genuine, insane, experiment. Take off on a sled, via catapult. Land, well stall and deliberately crash, on a giant rubber trampoline thingy. He did it of course.

He also pioneered take off from carriers in Mosquitoes. This was very dangerous, as we saved resources by not giving them contra rotating propellers. So the torque-steer was huge, not sure of the aviation terminology here... They worked out with slide-rules that he'd get lift before falling off the side, so long as he applied full rudder. But he was the guy who had to do it first. Then second, third and fourth.

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US rapper slams Earth is Round conspiracy in Twitter marathon

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Re: there's wind on the moon ?

We know that the Moon disappeared, after a vast explosion in 1999. What we now see, is merely a projection, put there in order to reassure us. Done by NASA in conjunction with Roscosmos, ESA and I'm sure that the Lizard-Person himself, Brian Cox, is also involved.

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Squeeze the banana to log into this office Wi-Fi

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Re: "The old sysadmin that only cares about his aquarium ....."

I suspect something fishy is going on...

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SpaceX: launch, check. Landing? Needs work

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Re: It is not a step too far, just the opposite

Voland's right hand,

Currently those unused oil tankers are actually full of oil. One of the reasons the oil price is so low is that the world is getting close to running out of storage. So if someone doesn't cut supply a bit soon, then we're going to end up in the silly situation where no-one can sell any - as there's nowhere to put it, and most of the ships are full up - so you can't transport the stuff.

Landing a big, unstable explodey thing on an even bigger potentially explodey burney thing, probably isn't such a great idea...

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Hot Swedish nurses in charity calendar rumpus

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Some red hot dongle on socket action perhaps?

Who can forget the old ritual of scrubbing your mouse balls.

Old monitors could work. I haven't seen a decent 14 incher in ages. Although mine's now 23 inches, it's also flat.

Obviously nobody wants to see any floppies...

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Aircraft now so automated pilots have forgotten how to fly

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Re: Old School

You don't need a pilot. Just someone who knows how to re-inflate the automatic pilot.

Saw that film for the first time in 20 years this Christmas. It's still great.

Big smiley face icon for me. Sadly they don't have one for big smiley face and smoking a cigarette...

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Re: A marketing opportunity

Commercial aviation is far safer than buses. It's even safer than trains - which are also far safer than driving.

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Re: SItuational Awareness

TeeCee,

I thought in the Ethiopean case that the pilot had the wings nice and level (from memory of the footage) and the sudden back at the end was the hijacker grabbing the controls and spoiling his nice water landing. It was a long time ago though.

My favourite crash is from Eric "winkle" Brown - who I believe is the most prolific test pilot in history, with more carrier landings than anyone else as well. At the end of WWII he got to go to Germany and test a whole bunch of thier experimental stuff, with no (or partial) manuals, and hoping that the few remaining ground crew were cooperating and not trying to kill him.

He also taught himself to fly a helicopter while testing at Farnborough.

He was flying a search and rescue helicopter in the late 50s, in a blizzard. And had an engine failure, while over a mountain. There was no flat bit to crash on - and through the snow he saw a barbed wire fence. Thinking to himself that this looked (to a desperate man) rather like an arrestor wire on a carrier, and that his tail was definitely hook-shaped - he decided to try his luck. And managed to hook the wire with the tail, and land on the slope.

I believe he was also the guy that did the test for the Navy - where they took the undercarriage off a Gloucester Meteor in order to lose weight extend the rather pathetic range. Then build a rubber "trampoline" above the flight deck of a carrier, and he deliveberately stalled the plane such that it landed on this rubber sheet.

...Balls of steel...

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Re: Pilots will soon only be needed for taxiing

I seem to remember that one of the recommendations of the Air France crash report was that pilots should do a bit of high altitude flying every so often, and take the autopilot off. As at high altitudes you have quite a small amount of leeway, as the stall speed is so high. Didn't the U2 have something silly like only 10-15 knots difference between crusing speed and stall speed at 70,000'?

I did hear a nice comment from one a pilot and controls expert on one documentary about it. He said described how the computer got the point where it could no longer make sense of all its inputs, so simply gave up and dumped the whole mess on the poor pilots, who had even less information to go on than it did. On the other hand, there was some strange breakdown of discipline and control going on in that cockpit. Two people can't fly the same aeroplane at the same time.

Although at least 3 people were flying the Sioux City plane, and they did pretty well. One poor guy sitting on the floor, steering with the throttles, while the pilot and copilot struggled with what controls were left working, and no hydraulic fluid. It's amazing they all survived - especially the one on the floor without even a seat, let alone a seatbelt.

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Att: Windows Phone owners: Win 10 Mobile has been spotted and it wants your phone

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Because iPhones are horrendously over priced!

I have an iPad 3. It's great. I love it. It's more expensive than the competition - but Android tablets were still a bit ropey when I bought it. Now you look to be able to get a very good one for under £200 - and my upgrade may well go that way.

A new iPad is £400. Less if you want the 7" one. A new iPhone is £600. Has a much smaller screen (the expensive bit) and a much smaller batter, the next most expensive bit. It does have the GSM chips - but then the iPad version with those is only £500 - and anyway that's probably a less than $5 part (including patent costs). The only reason the iPhone is so expensive, is because people have got used to buying their phones on hire purchase agreements over 2 years, with a call and data plan attached.

You can now get a seriously good phone for under £200. Motorola G, some of the Huwaei ones, or the Lumia 735 that I got for £140. Android or Apple are best for apps, but for a simple and useable phone that does email well and your addressbook better than anyone else - as well as having really good offline mapping - Windows Phone is great. Well WinPho10 may still be a bit buggy according to Andrew, I've not tried it yet. With the savings you can buy a few months groceries, or have a good phone and a tablet for the price of an iPhone.

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Re: I wonder if

So put Windows 10 on your laptop (it's so much better than 8.1 - and 8.0 is truly rubbish) - and keep Windows 8 on your phone.

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NASA books space shuttle delivery truck

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Re: Contract Out, Screw the Workforce

Oh I think you'll find NASA outside contractors have plenty of pork. Oh dear yes. That's why United Launch Alliance already cost something like twice as much to launch satellites as SpaceX, and possibly more. Also, for the manned missions to the ISS in a few years time, I believe Boeing are costing twice as much money as SpaceX to do the same 6 launches each.

NASA have always used outside contractors anyway. Rockwell, Boeing, Lockheed Martin etc. The only difference is that now the contractors are also operating the kit, as well as supplying it.

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Late night server rebuild led to 'nightmares about mutilated corpses'

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Ah Doom. I know that it wasn't all that good, but it was so much of a leap on what we'd had before. Add in my first go on my brother's brand new 33mHz 486 DX and SVGA graphics (swish bastard! my 386 was dead to me now) and his Creative soundcard and 2.1 speakers, well this was the best technology ever! My first time using a subwoofer too.

I guess being in a house I didn't know, and having not turned the lights on helped. The first thing I noticed was the lovely satisfying sub-woofery boom, as I decapitated something nasty with my shotgun.

The next thing was the sound of a door opening. Behind me! And something stealthily creeping up! Rather than using the keys, I phsically turned round, and was thus not in a position to avoid getting my character eaten by a giant pig-creature.

Happy days. When you could fit a top of the line game, plus Windows, on a 40MB hard disk.

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Re: flashbacks

This is why you can never cancel Trident. It's the ultimate deterrent to anyone who suggests installing Lotus Notes...

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After-dinner Mint? Stylish desktop finale released as last of the 17 line

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Re: My only problem was the installer

Which when I tried to install Mint over Christmas

Christmas? What bizarre unheard of OS is this? And why were you replacing it?

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Brit 'naut Peake gears up for spacewalk

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Re: According to BBC doc.

Perhaps he's from Newcastle, so will just do the spacewalk in his t-shirt?

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Cocky SpaceX will try another sea landing with next rocket launch

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I don't understand why they're not licenced to take off and land over Las Vegas.

In the worst case scenario the rocket launches and lands safely, and everyone's been entertained. In the best case, there's a vast explosion and a few less hideous casinos...

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EU stay or leave?

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Hmmm. Interesting poem. I rather liked it. Some of the metaphysical imigary was particularly effective.

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Re: Stay

I'll answer. But only if you promise not to read me any of your poetry... Save that for the random downvoter.

I've done quite a bit of reading around this. Anyone who tells you they know the economic outcome of us leaving is a fool or total liar. The idea that we'll instantly lose 3 million jobs, or 1.5% of GDP a year is ludicrous. On the other hand, some of the better off outers figures are equally mad.

I'd say there's 3 main possibilities. We leave, do a Swiss or Norwegian type deal, still have to comply with the single market and free movement of labour stuff, and have to pay in serious money. But we get quite a few powers back, there's very little economic dislocation, and so get some sovereignty back for little cost. Because we're such a big market, it's even vaguely possible we could score a much better deal, but I don't buy it. This could be good, as it gets rid of the friction where we're forced into integration we don't want - or pissing everyone else off by vetoing it.

Option 2 is complete disaster. Say us leaving coincides with more refugee crisis, more terrorism crisis, Schengen collapse, Spanish and French political turmoil, as their Two party systems could break down. All of Italy's opposition parries are now seriously suggesting campaigning to leave the Euro, and Italy's debt is now 140% of GDP - and their economy is smaller than when they joined the euro! Italy is a couple of panics away from making Greece look like a picnic. Greece is still in deep shit and the Euro is still guaranteed to fail without major reforms - which so far aren't happening. Say us leaving coincides with several other simultaneous crises, the politicians just can't run fast enough to keep up, and the whole EU collapses. It's not likely, but some country is certain to fall out of the Euro if they don't reform it, and there's no public support for any of the workable solutions. Losing the UK is a huge loss of prestige and strength to the EU. As much as it could be for us. By 2040, EU Commission figures predict we'll have a larger population and GDP than Germany. Plus the UN seat, world financial centre, globally deployable military, diplomatic and cultural reach. The World Bank just predicted (laughs!) that we'll be the 3rd biggest economy behind the US and China by 2050 ish, before being overtaken by maybe India and/or Brasil.

Option 3 is that negotiations break down catastrophically. I'm convinced a fair deal could have been done for Ireland and Greece, and the euro fixed by now. But the Germans and French in particular chose to prioritise protecting their banks. The politicians allowed the narrative to develop that Ireland, and Spain somehow deserved the horrendous economic pain they've suffered. Greece actually did bring it on themselves, but have now suffered the worst economic depression of any peacetime county in history. If Merkel in particular hadn't played to the gallery in 2010, Greece could have been bailed out for €50 billion odd, most of the euro crisis avoided, and Greece might have had a deep recession, rather than losing 30% of GDP and counting, and saddled with a €300 billion bailout that the IMF have refused to take part in, because it cannot work.

I'm so angry about how Greece and Cyprus were deliberately punished, that I'm seriously tempted to vote to leave, whatever. But rationally, lots of EU policy is moving in directions I agree with, as a centrist Conservative. I've lived and worked in Brussels. And I suspect Cameron will get almost everything he's asking for. But there is a strain of irrational nationalist posturing that sometimes hits EU negotiations. As I believe it did with Greece. And if we vote to tell the rest of the EU to get stuffed, they might feel the same way towards us. And as I said earlier, the U.K. is one of the handful of global great powers. Even if the US is way out ahead of everyone else. Suddenly they realise they're losing prestige for losing us perhaps? Maybe we'll be offered an insultingly shit deal, as "punishment", resulting in some painful losses to both us and the EU. Greece was deliberately and cruelly made to grovel, just to make a point. Our voters might take a more "Fuck You" attitude if that happened.

Result, loss of trade and recession, petty squabbling, and probably 5-10 years of slow, patient negotiation - back to some version of option 1.

I'd say under 5% chance of some kind of EU collapse, maybe 15-20% chance of negotiations acrimoniously breaking down, and maybe 5% chance of us getting a better deal than Switzerland or Norway. Leaving over 70% chance of minimal change.

Although long-term, the effects of us leaving are seriously unpredictable. Germany fears getting regularly outvoted by Italy, France and Spain. The Eastern Europeans are desperate to commit NATO and the EU to protect them from Russia. We could cause a damaging split between the EU and NATO.

To put all this in context, 60% of our exports, a bit under 20% of UK GDP, went to the EU before the crisis. Because the ECB and Eurozone chose excessive austerity and deflation, with exports, as their recovery plan, their imports have collapsed. Hence now only 42% of our exports, 14% of GDP, goes to the EU. Overall our exports are higher than before the crisis too. Even more significantly, we have a huge trade deficit with the EU, but a big trade surplus with the rest of the world. This is partly because we're a global leader in services (2nd to the US), but the EU has never completed the single market in services. In manufacturing we're about 8th in the world. Germany, France and Italy are eager to sell us goods, but much more protectionist when it comes to accepting our world leading insurance, legal services, building design, finance, etc. If we could change this, the whole EU would get richer, and we'd reduce or eliminate our dangerously huge trade deficit.

We have leverage. We overtook France as Germany's 2nd largest export market 3 or 4 years ago.

Finally, the Common Agricultural Policy probably doubles or trebles the price of our food. Our poorest people subsidise France's farmers. And the CAP has for years stopped African farmers from trading their way out of terrible poverty. If we could ditch this, the world would be a better place, and we could set aside a portion of the savings to spend on protecting the poorest farmers and protect hedgerows and the rural environment.

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Boozing is unsafe at ‘any level’, thunders chief UK.gov quack

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Oh god! The memories! My friend drank 9 bottles of Orange Hooch. I guess the Yanks had to do something with their left over Agent Orange, when the Cold War ended.

I've never seen fizzy, Sunny Delight coloured vomit before.

His plaintive cry, while praying to the porcelain, was "mummy". He wasn't allowed to forget this fact. He didn't drink it again.

That shit can shorten your life.

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Did North Korea really just detonate a hydrogen bomb? Probably not

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Re: Can't blame the Norks for trying to protect themselves

You can suit yourself, of course. I've indulged in no name calling. if anyone tries to claim any recent Western leader is as bad as Stalin or Mao, I will call them ignorant. It's a statement of fact. The North Korean regime uses the same deliberately cruel and vicious tactics as they did. And regularly kills a serious percentage of its own people by torture, non-judicial execution and deliberate starvation, as they did. As well as regular displays of foreign agression, and massive oppression. It's one of the nastiest regimes I can think of.

You have failed to challenge a single one of my points, after I did you the courtesy of typing a long post, setting out my arguments.

My news sources are the BBC World Service, and a couple of recent documentaries and book serialisations from defectors on BBC Radio 4. A friend who's been to North Korea twice. The U.K. press, the US press, the odd Chinese English language article, North Korea's own news agency, KCNA, where they regularly threaten nuclear attacks on their neighbours. I've read a couple of histories of the Korean War, plus I've been reading about the Cold War since the 80s, and studied modern history at university. Even picked up some info on El Reg.

Perhaps you should try to make an argument, and educate me? It would be interesting for us both.

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Re: Ever heard of Guantanamo Bay?

To be fair to the US government Gerry Adams was only invited to the White House, as a reward, after the Good Friday Agreement was in place.

But there are quite a few US politicians who should be ashamed of themselves for having helped politically and financially support Sinn Fein/IRA terrorism from back in the day.

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Re: Can't blame the Norks for trying to protect themselves

nilfs2,

Starvation and slavery is very present on "americanized" countries

I think you're going to have to clarify what you mean here. But anyway you're talking rubbish. Slavery is illegal in most of the world. I'd assume all "americanised" countries, whatever that means.

No country is perfect. But the North Korean regime is as close to George Orwell's 1984 as we're likely to see. Any attempt to try to create some moral equivalence between the US and North Korean governments means you are an ignorant fool, or an apologist for one of the worst regimes in human history.

and most of the bad things said on media about Norks is propaganda and/or uninformed lies

Are you denying my points above about the North Korean gulag system? This is visible from space - and I've also seen books by people who escaped from it, and heard interviews with others who had family members sent there. The North Korean aggressive invasion of the South is also a matter of record, as is the kidnapping of Japanese civilians off beaches up until the 1980s. It was a UN report to confirm the torpedoing of that South Korean warship in international waters. And I've not seen anyone question the regular North Korean artillery attacks on the South. Or special forces raids. The murder of political opponents gets announced on state news. There aren't many South Koreans desperate to escape into North Korea, but many Northerners desperate to get out. Hence the minefields and guards.

Capitalism as it is on the world right now is not better than communism or totalitarianism

Again, total bollocks! Remember West Germany didn't have to build a wall round their bit of Berlin to stop their population from running away, it was the Communist system that everyone was desperate to escape from. As with North Korea.

Western democracies don't have famines. North Korea does. There are plenty of UN reports about that, as UN staff were finally allowed in - from memory about 5 years, and a million dead, after it started. You can read the UN reports about malnourished children, and studies on how the North Korean adult popluation are now so much shorter on average, because the people in the South get enough food, and the people in the North don't.

The nuclear tests, and threats to nuke the US, Japan and South Korea were from North Korean state radio.

Admittedly, you do get the weird stories about feeding his uncle to wild dogs, or having him killed with anti-aircraft guns. I seem to remember those were sourced from the Chinese media, by our media, and were too juicy not to report. But were officially thought not to be true - if anyone had bothered to ask the US State Department or South Korean government.

In summary, no country is perfect. But some are better than others. Britain and the US have their faults, make mistakes but also commit their own blood and treasure to sometimes do good. And sometimes fuck up of course. There was no advantage to us in stopping the slaughter in Kosovo, or Bosnia or Sierre Leone. But we did it anyway.

Iran may be a religious dictatorship - but it's also got a weird sort of democracy bolted on, there's a reason it's called the Islamic Republic. Although they've slaughtered their fair share of opponents too. China is a one party state, but does take some account of the population's wishes - unless they're Uighur or Tibetan. And the Party may be stealing loads of the cash, but are also to a great extent working to improve the country as a whole. The party even renew their leadership every ten years so as not to become a dictatorship. Russia is now virtually a dictatorship, but a populist one that again has limits. ISIS (if you can call them a state) are run by a genocidal bunch of total lunatics.

I would be careful bandying words like evil around, but I'd feel safe using it for regimes like ISIS and North Korea. They have no redeeming features. They don't give a fuck about their own populations. And seem to do everything possible to make their lives as miserable as possible. I suppose at least North Korea haven't indulged in genocide, though probably have managed to starve to death 1-2 million of their own population in the last 30 years - and rejected help in favour of not admitting the problem, or building nuclear weapons. Some of the starvation is the result of dictatorship and forced collectivised agriculture - but they also seem to deliberately underfeed the prisonser in their gulags, so they can slowly work them to death. As Hitler and Stalin both did.

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Re: Of course there is the possibility...

Isn't this the choice we've struggled with, and so often failed, in Cold War and Middle East policy? Sure that dictatorship is horrible (Saudi, Egypt wherever) - but they're relatively stable, so at least we don't have much of a foreign policy headache. Followed by Oooh! This Arab Spring is exciting. Then almost immediately, Oh God, this Arab Spring is scary! Perhaps an Egyptian military dictatorship isn't so bad after all.

Look at Iraq, Libya and Syria for 3 diffferent places where we've intervened a lot, a little and not much. And how they've all turned out quite badly. At least if you do nothing, fewer people will blame you when it all turns to shit.

And as the old Yes Prime Minister joke went, "the Foreign Office's job is to tell you all the reasons why you shouldn't do anything. Then when it's clear that something ought to be done, that there's nothing you can do. Then to say that there might be something that we could do, but it'll be terribly complicated - and will need lots of time to study. Then hopefully whatever bad thing will have already happened, so they can then tell you that there probably was something that we could have done, but it's too late now.

That show really was a documentary not a comedy... And I bet the Chinese diplomats are just as cautious as our Foreign Office ones.

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Re: the other questions to be asked:

I don't believe any aid has been offered to the North since the first nuclear test - and although there have been talks on-and-off, they've never really got anywhere. They aren't even offering talks after each provocation now, as they're worried that doing that is just an incentive to cause more trouble to get attention. So the talks are on offer, and each time something like this happens, they talk about increasing the sanctions. Effectively that's down to the Republic of Korea, China and Russia. As they have the borders, so if they allow trade - or in China's case give subsidised fuel to keep the regime going - there's not a lot the US can do.

We could have ended this decades ago, with mass civilian and military casualties. That is not the altervative to a nuclear explosion though, as North Korea may not have the capacity for thermo-nuclear devices yet (or ever) - and even if/when it does, may choose never to use them. The casualties from an invasion are certain to be huge - and that's without whatever reaction that might have caused during the Cold War - or starting a new Cold War with China.

And by the way, it was bugger-all money in the grand scheme of things paid "to appease a tyrant". A large chunk of it was on food-aid anyway, which saved several million lives, and was therefore a worthwhile thing to do. Plus it is worth trying to negotiate, the Cold War mostly ended by negotiation for example - after many years of fruitless, or sometimes useful, talks - which was far better than any alternative.

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Re: Can't blame the Norks for trying to protect themselves

wofetone,

Indeed I have heard of Guantanamo. Where a few hundred people captured on the battlefield in a war in Afghanistan that the US did not start were kept. People that it has proved virtually impossible to repatriate because they weren't fighting for a state, so they weren't technically POWs - and most of their own countries refused to take them back, on the grounds that many of them were violent nutcases. A not ideal situation, appallingly badly handled.

North Korea keeps many hundreds of thousands of it's people in gulags. So multiple percent of it's poplulation live and die in slave labour camps. Whole families can be sent for life imprisonment there, without trial, defence, evidence or due process. The "crimes" can be things such as trying to escape to China, watching DVDs, saying the President is an evil wanker, etc. Children born to people inside those prison camps are also politically contaminated. So they also get life imprisonment - for the crime of being born.

I also pointed out that dliberately causing a famine that kills 5% of your population is also not what one would call good governance. Not to mention the secret police, torture, random killings of political opponents, lack of freedom, all-pervasive propoganda, constant horrendously intrusive surveillance, fear, despair, grinding miserable poverty etc.

There is no equivalence between the regime in North Korea and the US government. If you attempt to create one you are at best an ignorant fool.

As I said, this is one of the worst regimes in history. That's not hyperbole. It's equivalent to what Stalin's Russia was like in the worst days of the 1930s purges. Or the worst days of the Cultural Revolution in China.

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Re: Of course there is the possibility...

I really don't understand why the Chinese continue to put up with him. He must be a bigger danger to them than anyone else.

The Chinese don't want 20 million starving North Koreans wandering across a very long and hard to police border, and buggering up their economy. Of course there's a thriving industry in China in exploiting those who manage to escape, as cheap labour, sex workers or even brides (given what the one-child policy has done to the male/female ratio). So they probably don't try too hard to stop them coming across the border - and the threat of having your entire family sent to Labour Camps for the rest of their lives is enough to deter most from trying to escape.

But I guess the Chinese prefer the relative stability - rather than the uncertainty of having a border with a united Korea. But in comparison to North Korea, East Germany was a positive paradise on earth - so I'm not sure the South are up to re-unification anyway. The levels of poverty, suffering, terror and brainwashing are an order of magnitude worse.

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Re: Shelf-life

I don't know at what purity you need your uranium/plutonium to make the nuke go bang. I can't remember if the Norks are only using centrifuges, or if they've been manufactuing Plutonium as well - I think they may have gone for both at once, as the Iranians did. But presumably you can over-purify, so that the warhead has a longer shelf-life.

I wonder if you can you get them on special offer just as they're coming up to their best before date?

I recall that tritium is a problem, with a much shorter half-life. Though that's not as hard to make I think, so it's just a maintenance job. And they've got plenty of labour.

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Re: Can't blame the Norks for trying to protect themselves

let them be the hermit country.

It's very nice of you to not to mind about the torture, slave labour camps, repression collective punishment and general hell on earth that is North Korea. They waited until about a million people had already died in the 1990s famine, before they bothered to ask for food aid. They did decide to think about trying not to have future famines, by giving up on the disaster that forced collectivisation of agriculture always brings - but I seem to remember that the new fat leader reversed those reforms - as he's gone for even more repression than before.

Anyway, they didn't need nukes to protect themselves. The frozen conflict in Korea has gone on for years, and the US has entirely failed to try to nuke them. Nor have the South or US tried to invade - and the US only keep about one division there - so it's not like they've got the force on hand to launch an invasion. The South do, but their policy for years was avoiding confrontation - even over the nuclear testing (when the US wanted tougher sanctions). And it was only missile tests, artillery attacks and the sinking of an ROK navy ship that persuaded them away from their Sunshine Policy.

So nope, North Korea doesn't need nukes. And without them would have better relations, and would be given subsidised (and some free) food, medicine and fuel as a reward for not having the nuke program (as they were getting in the 90s), even though that'll probably prolong the life of what is one of the worst regimes in history. It was deemed better than them getting nukes. Plus they have an estimated 20,000 pieces of artillery and rocket launchers aimed at Seoul (20-odd miles from the border), so don't need nukes to destroy the ROK's capital city.

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Re: Too small?

I did a Hiroshima sized jobbie once. Boy those chillies were hot...

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Re: Little Difference

North Korea have been digging tunnels deep into rock since the 1950s. I heard someone on the radio suggesting that the most worrying thing was the idea that the top bods in the regime think that they (personally obviously - sod the rest of the population) might therefore be able to comfortably survive nuclear retaliation.

I'm not sure I buy that idea, as surely spending the rest of your life hiding in a tunnel, however luxurious, is nowhere near as fun as being the boss of a whole Stalinist theme park. Where you can oppress your population, have the finest goodies that money can buy, meet Dennis Rodman, march your huge army around, and generally play God. I guess we so far out on the edge of sanity, that it's very hard to work out what the hell the regime wants out of anything. Makes them very hard to predict.

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Re: H-Bombs, its the fission not fusion

...causes ablative pressure on a uranium jacket...

As it's finally getting colder now, I went to M&S and asked for a uranium jacket.

I've no idea why that police helicopter has started following me around...

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Re: unbombified?

Also you can tell a real earthquake from a nuclear fake-quake. Real ones are deeper, and last longer. And you'd need to release the right radioactive goodies for the atmospheric detectors to pick up. Easier to fake small bangs with lots and lots of TNT - or a fuel-air explosive, I'd have thought.

Or could you get a million people in a big cave to all jump up and down at once? If North Korea wins the synchronised trampolining at the next Olympics, you'll know I was right...

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The reports I've read suggest that the Norks are only able to make enough material for 2-5 nukes a year. So they've tested at least a year's supply. How long do they last before you have to reprocess the uranium due to too much decay? What's the shelf-life of a nuke?

Anyway they've not got many, so may not wish to sell them. Plus there's a good chance selling one would be traceable. The retaliation after that might be quite serious. The regime might struggle to survive without imports of fuel from China - that would almost certainly tip China over the edge into becoming an enemy. I doubt the regime can survive that.

Also they're under very serious sanctions now, so ships can't just leave North Korea - which means the nuke would almost certainly have to be smuggled via China. Which might also upset them somewhat. It's possible though, they may be mad enough to sell or use them.

But selling the technology is nothing new. I don't remember the exact details of who helped who now, but look up the AQ Khan nuclear network. My recollection is that China helped Pakistan's nuclear program, as a counter-balance to India getting them in the 70s. Pakistan was a bit light on missile technology though, so they were helping various people in exchange for missile technology. I think that was principally Iran and North Korea, but possibly also Libya (not that their nuke program seems to have been all that serious). I don't remember if it was Pakistan or Israel that was cooperating with the South African nuke program.

Iraq had a mix of Russian, Chinese and self-modified Scuds. I don't think they were using the North Korean tech. Again I think Iran and the Norks were cooperating there, so Iran would not have been best pleased if North Korea were helping their main enemy as well.

I don't remember reading anything about Syria's program, so don't know who they were talking to. The AQ Khan network was broken up over ten years ago, and the Syrian project was more recent. I wonder if they were using Saddam's old scientists - his nuke program doesn't seem to have got all that far, and Israel bombed the French reactor in the 80s - but they must have still had the info. Or they could have been talking to North Korea.

Tis all very convoluted.

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Re: plutonium little boy?

All the other tests were underground, and I read a news report in November / December that they were carrying out digging works at or near one of the previous test sites. So I don't quite know why most of the stories I've seen in the papers said that this test was a surprise. And this is likely to have been underground too.

Admittedly China say they weren't told in advance. But then if you remember in December Kim withdrew his girlband from Beijing, because they were only getting a Politburo member in the audience, rather than Xi Xinping himself. And I read speculation then that this was because the Chinese might not want to be seen to endorse an upcoming test.

The neptunium thing was interesting. I didn't realise it was useable in weapons. But according to that authoritive source of knowledge Wiki (as I quickly Googled it on reading the article) - the US released info that it could be used for nukes in the 90s. The same article said that no-one has been known to try, as it's harder to isolate enough of the stuff than uranium/plutonium.

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Windows 10 phones are not dead yet. Acer, Alcatel OneTouch just made some new ones

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Re: It's not the phones that are dead .....

You wouldn't believe how much money this charity piss up the wall. Since retiring she was consulting for them, but now they've merged, have new rules and so no consulting. She's now an employee on 2 days a week.

Had to do about 10 hours of that crappy online based IT modular training shit to be allowed on their network. Except you're not allowed to do the training unless you have network access, and you're not allowed network access until you've done the training! What fucking genius came up with that? Is their IT Director Franz Kafka?

All wasted on crappy, otherwise unemployable, middle management form-filling wankers. And saving money on the people who go out and deal with the families and children they're supposed to be supporting.

Still she did get to be an expert witness in a tribunal against her old employers - to get support for a family. So that made lots of it worthwhile I suspect...

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Re: Continuum

You're right, convergence may never happen. It requires cooperation from the manufacturers, or one big one to just make a seemlessly connecting bunch of stuff with well supported stable interfaces that they don't plan to change.

But it's all perfectly possible now. Any decent modern smartphone has enough power to store Gb of data, run an HD screen, and power reasonable looking games or office software. That's simply unarguable. And that tech is getting cheaper all the time.

It may be that the tech becomes so cheap that it's easier to just have a tablet in every room, and something with a bigger screen and keyboard so you can type properly.

But I doubt it. Because it's just as much effort to integrate all the software, so that you can get your stuff migrated on to all this stuff and set it up. Given most people are incapable of configuring their current devices properly. And the demands of software are still growing, plus this stuff takes building, and natural resources, and transport and sales costs. So there must be a minimum price somewhere, unless we get matter transformers. Or giant robot factories in the asteroid belt.

I already cast stuff from my phone/tablet to my telly. And to my speakers. I have separate PCs, but I don't game on them anymore, so my only requirements are for office, media and web browsing. All perfectly doable on phones and tablets . And a computer is still more expensive than a monitor. Although it could soon be that a £5 full PC on a chip is possible, so all screens are smart.

Losing your phone is admittedly a problem. Being portable it's at high risk of breakage and loss. But that's a piece of tech that's always going to need to be smart, as smartphones are just so useful. So it would probably still end up being cheaper to just have a spare, and whatever non-portable peripherals you feel you require. I suspect most people will be happy to do most of their personal computing on a tablet, whcih the phone could slot into, or could be smart. Then only work will require a keyboard and screen. And they'll either act as remote controls to things like media and games systems, or even be the system.

Specialist stuff will probably always be different, gamers will probably always want 10% more performance for double the price - but most people's computing needs are pretty modest.

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Re: It's not the phones that are dead .....

Just to add, my Mum has an iPad, which she loves. But the charity she consults for just gave her an iPhone, and she hates it. Says her Windows Phone is better and easier to use, even though she should already know how to use an iPhone.

Actually that's why I went Win Phone. I had a work iPhone, and also love my iPad. But I found the iPhone to be a better mobile computer than it was a phone. So even though the company foot the bill, went for the £150 Lumia 750 - rathern than the £600 iPhone when the iPhone died. 2 of our eight 5s went wrong within a few months, and EE broke the law by saying we had to go to Apple to get them replaced (due to Apple rules) - both those replacements barely made a year after that, and 2 of the others went wrong pretty soon after. But we may have just got a dodgy batch, as my experience of iPads has been far better.

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Re: X86

There have been various mainstream x86 Android phones and tablets. I don't see why MS couldn't do it. But I get the impression that management hate Windows Phone, and despite all the money, effort and time spend on Win Pho, Win Mobile, Windows CE and the like - they only agree to spend the money once they're already way behind.

Which is a shame, because Windows Phone 8 is actually not a bad OS, and with a little more love could have been really great. I've not looked at 10 on phones, but Orlowski has been really quite rude about it, and having met him at a Register do, he was using Win Pho 8 as his everyday phone, so must like the OS.

It's a shame.

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Re: Continuum

Continuum (and stuff like it) is surely the future of personal computing. You'll have one personal pooter, always in your pocket, presumably with data backed up to the cloud, and you'll just dock it or connect it to screens networks and input devices as you go about your day. Phones are now as powerful computers as normal laptops were 5-10 years ago, and people worked on them perfectly easily.

How long it takes for the technology to make this a seamless process is anyone's guess. With enough investment and industry cooperation, we ought to be able to do it this year. In reality I can't see it being more than 5-10 years away.

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Re: It's not the phones that are dead .....

djstardust,

I like it. I've just advised my Mum to get one, because it's cheap - much easier to use than Android at the £120 price point, and will get security updates and has the stuff she needs out of the box. Last time I used Android, I thougth the stock email, address book and particularly calendars were awful - yes I know you can replace them - but I can't be arsed.

On the other hand, I've advised another friend to go Android for her daughter, because she'll want the apps. And even now, the Windows Phone appstore is rubbish. There aren't even any decent torch apps, and nor have MS built one into the OS (which they bloody well should have by now).

I'll be sad if MS kill it off, as it's great for just a simple phone that does email and satnav well. And it's what I choose to use. The browser's improved, but I still tether my tablet for anything more than just quickly looking something up.

But if they want to sell devices at over £500 - they've either got to use that stonking camera technology that Nokia developed, or radically improve their Crapstore.

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